Wish Me Luck or Not

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Urban Paradise

Confined to the Los Angeles Arts District for the past ten days, then before to Emeryville, and back and forth but nothing in between I am getting a bit long of tooth on this urban confinement. Clogged urban arterials no longer sing their heart-stopping song. I don’t want to be cheek to jowl at another standing room only event. I need a tent, trail, ridge and rattlesnake.

East to the border then crossing into open-carry Arizona where I’ll be packing my fully loaded Swiss Army knife, tent, hiking boots and Kevlar walking sticks. The forlorn desert town of Ajo is my first waystation. I’ll hold up overnight there, eat tacos and fight off Gila Monsters. I’ll more likely than not spend the evening gazing at stars, drinking tea and finish reading Abbey’s Hayduke Lives before I fall asleep.

The main thing is to wake up and be unfamiliar with where I have landed. The stranger and more lost-and-to-hell-and-gone I feel in the morning the better. Fix coffee, read, eat some grub, pack the tent, say two words to someone and then head east.

I got a date with a trailhead on top Mt. Lemmon on the itinerary. Will plan on a long hike. The idea is to let the mind and body wonder. Gaze down and find an animal track. Look up and see a raven. Stop every now and then have a sip of water. Put a handful of trail mix in my mouth and continue along my way. Cussing is part of the thing.

Somewhere mixed up in the driving, sleeping, and thinking is medicine to cure the confinement that’s been eating at me. The stop lights and homeless are a wearisome part of my day to day and I need a holiday from them both. I need some solitude slathered all across my need for space. I need some emptiness that might be meaningful if not downright useful. If I got even two words to rub together to spark a constructive conversation I’ll be the first to be surprised. I’m feeling like I haven’t a useful thought or gainful insight coming to me anywhere near or anytime soon. I’m looking for some restoration of the old psychic timbers so I may return and continue to participate in the construction of further delusions with the whole of humanity. Departing not soon enough but better late than never. With any luck this could be useful or produce envy or someone might criticize me for being a quitter while I’m gone. This is common to our circumstance in this era. Wish me luck or not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highway to the Belly of the Feast

Self Portrait

Starvation in the Arts District

Miracle of miracles we hop over to the Magical Castle last night to hang with the dexterously gifted slight of hand bright of mind Shawn Eric. Much feared Highway 101 wasn’t all parking lot impressions, stalling for time, hindering our progress living up to its much deserved reputation. From the Arts District to the Castle and back was mercifully quick.

We were sure to finish our supper before 7 and wouldn’t eat another thing until at the earliest 8 today. We’re allowing for the long gaps as a means to shock our regenerative cellular system. Virtuous hunger game’s is basically all you need or want to know.

Experimental from scratch batter has been the project. Equal parts brown rice and coconut flour, a minuscule dollop of buckwheat flour, equal parts baking soda and creme of tartar to make non-aluminum based baking powder, teaspoon of olive oil, almond milk added until batter is thinner and not thick. Topped with blueberries and least amount of maple syrup.

The idea here creating a breakfast cake that will not maim or kill. Oatmeal had been my only alternative and going steady with oatmeal as you well know is no cakewalk. Yogurt and the bovinian clan had to be excised from list of approved eatable substances.

A bowl of fruit, a cake or two with the least amount of preserves, cup of coffee is now the second arrow in my breakfast quiver.

Stuck in traffic, starvation by tyranny of impending blood panel testing, exercise bike sessions exceeding all previous levels of effort have combined to make existence look like a Launchpad with escape velocity from the terror of the modern American food chain the goal.

No more genetically modified organisms and that includes everything ringing our nations capital. We are playing old records on a turntable, using incandescent light bulbs, and if it goes in our mouth it’s made of fresh-whole-plant based- and is commonly referred to as food. This is what happens to a life not stuck on a LA freeway. I know what your thinking- what’s for lunch?

 

 

Do Not Enter

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Blueberries on my mind

My lifestyle caught up with my hairstyle. Black Monday’s deep dive has nothing on my temporal skyline. While I haven’t physically resorted to the comb-over there is a forensic team searching the empty corridors of my courage for suspicious activity.

My bandwagon finally collided with my chow-wagon. With my hair going full on canary in the coal mine and my fondness for renewables being what they are I thought I’d head on down to the corner plasma testing center for further guidance.

That of course led me to the door I didn’t want to walk through. The door you don’t want to walk through is the same door, located in the same place like right in front of your freakin’ face, carried with you the entirety of your life on earth. It may be locked, unrecognized, invisible, squeaky-hinged, or have a sign posted warning you to Do Not Enter. Trust me eventually you’re going to have to open the door.

I found an exercise bike waiting. Long walks were there. Extra time on the cushion meditating was there. There were old pictures of how I used to look hanging on the walls. New dietary guidelines. Admonishments especially slanted to the mind altering penchants and predilections of a certain person whose door this is. The self destruct Google Maps app especially designed to not know the directions to every single saloon within drinking distance was there. There was an enhanced Vegan Diet from Carnivorous Hell, smoothies made by retired showgirls, and a fine Pop-up Wheat Grass Beverage Cart all arranged to catch what’s left of my eyes.

Having spent two months on the other side I can tell you for a fact that Sinatra was absolutely spot on when he said.  “I feel sorry for people that don’t drink, because when they wake up in the morning, that is the best they are going to feel all day-” And that’s true, besides who wants to call the greatest dead saloon singer of all time a liar?  No, I’m here to figure out how to put some numbers up on the big board that won’t frighten a cardiologist or get my life insurance canceled. I’m living proof that at some point no matter how you cut the deck or keep a lock on that door eventually you’ll find out that what life is really all about is located somewhere between having less hair and eating more leafy greens.

There are no secrets to life just unopened doors.

 

 

 

The Longest Running Show on Earth

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Late Summer Telegraph Hill, San Francisco

 

The severity of the climate change induced wildfires in the winegrowing region of Northern California comes as no surprise. Lake County’s record breaking Valley Fire of 2015 remains an all too fresh memory. The unholy alliance between real estate developers and the bipartisan business friendly politicians have been paid to ignore the calls for a more sustainable growth model. The only obstacle they have had to overcome on their way to this day were environmental organizations and voters who have been urgently sounding the alarm on unchecked sprawl, traffic choked highways and a perilous all too visible decline in the quality of life.

With the end of American frontier an all but ‘un fait accompli,’ the rush to plant more wine in the teeth of the just broken five year drought could not have been a more ill-considered act. The much put upon planning commissioners, supervisors, and regional water regulators have been incapable of staring down the powerful agriculture lobby while they have been pressing their thumb on the scale for more vineyards, more wineries and more development.

All the money in the world can’t put down the danger to the drought damaged region when the inevitable hazardous autumn red flag warnings arise. Puerto Rico having taken a direct hit from Hurricane Maria remains in shambles three weeks after without any of our authorities having taken a moment to wonder if under the influence of climate-change the region is not anything other than another target on a map for a future super hurricane to come clobber yet again and again. We can’t think that far ahead because we have defunded and discredited the very scientists and engineers we are going to need to rely upon to devise a way out of this collision course we are on with Mother Nature.

Whether you believe in climate change or not is very much beside the point. There are super sized forces in the tangible Universe being unleashed and roaring down upon us. After the fact our rescue and rebuilding efforts may be welcomed but these costly interventions are being made all the more necessary as we put off our collective humanity making a globally coordinated effort and respond to the carbon addicted behaviors that are much the cause for the calamitous events the people the world over now face.

I live here in California. I admire much of what this state has done, but I am not in total awe. Like any other region or kingdom money rules the day rather than the interests of concerned citizens looking at the problems. Without favor or financial interest ordinary citizens can see through the smog shrouded windshield of their lives and that a more sustainable path needs to be reconciled with democracy and capitalism. A key part of what more needs to be done is to leave what has not yet been spoiled alone. Leave water in the ground and our trees standing on the mountains. When a regions carrying capacity hits full we need  our leaders to put a halt to further growth until we have a workable plan. We’ll need to employ conservation techniques, more vertical housing, deploy new and cleaner methods of mass transportation. We are all going have to surrender to the common good and give something back to the place we call home.

Money as they say is “speech.”. But money is a fallible one-dimensional speech that influences civilization at its extinction inducing peril. Clear as a bell and cold as a winter day the affairs of our world have reached the point where the best path forward be plotted and planned by a more carefully considered forum of enlightened interests. Money as a one trick pony is going the way of the Ringling Brothers beloved famous elephants. And as well all know the longest running show on earth is over…

Wildfires in Northern California

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Scenes from Arson Instigated Fire in Lake County

Valley Fire, September 2015

Intending to begin my fourth novel at Calistoga’s famed dirt racing oval I was instead shocked to find the fairgrounds transformed into a shelter for the evacuees of the deadly and destructive Valley Fire of Lake County. The famed racetrack where the motorcycle championship riders would have been competing was their next to last stop on their way to the season ending Las Vegas finale. Arson and climate change induced drought forever cancelled those races and altered the trajectory of my plotting of Women of the Oak Savannahs. Now the destructive and deadly fires of 2017, in part the result of the same out of control development, chronic water shortages  and drought stricken arid landscape I have been writing about have vaulted my fictitious characters from the page and have been brought to life as gut-wrenching  non-fiction fact. I didn’t want to write about climate change. I didn’t want to write about overdevelopment. I had the story handed to me by stubborn politics, rapacious real estate developers and a handful of committed environmental activists standing up trying to sound the alarm. Here is the opening to my all but complete still in editing fourth novel…

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Valley Fire, Lake County

September 19, 2015

High aloft the aerialist gripped the climbing rope. Beyond a brownish orange sun went lost in a smoke filled sky. Helicopters, Super-Huey’s thump-thump-thumped eastward to the front. In the tumult of the still out of control wildfire the aerialist startled the audience with a swift descent back to the ground. The rhinestone bejeweled woman slipped one foot then the other into her glittering silver clogs. Each knee-high-stride was accent, twirling her palms face up, she tickled the ovation with her fingertips. The incessant droning of the Grumman Air-tankers crisscrossing the sky mixed with the audience’s anxious murmurs. Within the respite of the struggle to survive a showgirl’s smile simmered across her lips. The heavy oppression of the air reeking of acrid smoke pressed a sorrowful reality down upon the fairground. Jo assumed a dancer’s first position, her concentration slipping away, mind wandering, locking eyes with the motorcycle racer for one part of one instant, then in the next breath the performing artist vanished out of the light away into the night.

“You want to unfasten me?” Jo was standing backstage on the other side of a pickup truck. She was peeling her full figure out of her costume. By design the garment fit skintight. Piper tugging the flesh colored fabric together unlatched the hooks to the eyes along the seam running down her back.

“I thought the Deputy Sheriff was going to poke us with his night stick.” Jo said.

“He’s just gawking. It’s always something, our mascara, false eyelashes, our derrières.” Piper wiggled hers.

“Have you noticed how it is that white girls’ lives matter?”

“All lives matter.”

“The fair manager notified the Sheriff’s Department. She told them we were setting up for a show.” Jo rolled her eyes.

“They haven’t started shooting showgirls as far as I know.”

“Give the deputies a chance. We haven’t resisted arrest yet.”

“This is the wine country, we’re in Calistoga. Nothing but mud baths and chardonnay as far as an eye can see…”

“How about all those stretch limos full of binge drinkers? That’s what I want to wake up to, a five hundred dollar hangover.” Jo laughed. “That’s a headache and a pain in the ass wrapped up into one fan-fucking-tastic butt-ugly credit card bill.”

Children on tenterhooks, eight of them, old enough to play together so long as they didn’t stray too far from their parents’ watchful eyes, had come around from where they sat at the front of the audience to peek.

“They are such perfect pests.” Jo smiling at her admirers.

“They just want to grow up and be like you and me,” Piper said.

Jo wrapped her fingers around one wrist and then the other pumping her hand. She grimaced, “I’m glad we came out.” She scanned the dusk sky, “This has to be the hardest thing, performing for a fairground filled to the brim with heartbreak.”

Piper her understudy was elvish, shorter, blanketed with a pearl white skin, blue eyed, blonde hair said, “The audience had a chance to forget their problems, even if it was only for tonight. Nothing’s wrong with that. Life has to go on.”

Jo scrunched her nose and tilted her head grinning at her new fans. She wagged her finger like she was tickling the overcurious kids. They scattered giggling.

 

 

Going Your Own Way

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San Francisco Bay

The Catalans vote to separate from the federal center of power in Madrid, the British vote to exit the European Union are unmistakable indications that national governance is failing to protect its citizens from the barbarians of business and finance.

City of London types leveraged influence upon British Parliament tilting policy away from the rest of the nation’s in favor of banking’s international financial interests. Madrid during the run up to the financial crisis of a decade ago had gone on a real estate spree. The culprits in government, royalty and European banking had their fingerprints all over the collapse in housing prices.

Lobbyists fanned out decades ago with the aim to capture the regulatory apparatus located at the nation-states nerve center’s: London, Madrid and Washington DC among the many. Supervision and regulation of the transnational corporations was relaxed. Labor relationships were smothered while entrepreneurial individuality was encouraged. Profits went to the top while flat wages were sent to the working stiffs lower down on the pay scale.

Agents who had gone to the worlds leaders to purchase their agenda had sold their policies in the false assumption that these changes would be cost free.

Capitalism and democracy have proven to be a fragile alliance in the hyper-intense internet of information era. What is rotten is not forgotten so much as buried in a fire hose of more information tumbling forth virtually toward exhausted consumers of the human condition.

With central governments besieged voters are keenly aware that the collapse of the climate changing ecosystem is racing full speed ahead and there is nobody home to steer the ship of state.

Responding to the well oiled stalemates voters are deciding they would prefer power be exercised on the basis of regional interests. Californian’s do not much care for other regions views on abortion, immigration, or climate change. Renewable energy, electrification of the transportation system and clean air all seem more probably solved by the state government in Sacramento.

It is no wonder that consensus is breaking down. While regional differences grow shrill shouts go out for separating from centralized political power. Head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, and the petroleum centric state of Oklahoma he has long represented is not a suitable policy interface for anything other than the multinational corporations he devotedly serves. The business friendly fringe responds by ignoring a world with problems they have no answers for. In the minds of an ever increasing percentage of voters if this is the case there is no reason to remain.

 

 

Notes from Near the Last Page

Story on the Front Burner

Women of the Oak Savannah’s, my fourth novel has started and ended my day for what will soon be two years. I stand on the edge of the end of my work of seventy-five thousand carefully chosen words.

Hot Spring Honeymoon, my previous novel, a sexual farce was in the wheelhouse of my native mind. This current work descends into the politics and economics of a more ruthlessly ambitious place and people. The story is set in the idyllic pastoral Golden State splendor of the much overwhelmed Napa Valley.

I had gone to Calistoga looking for a story, and as wildfire and fate struck, I found a billionaire funded world renowned globalized tourist destination being crushed to enterprise death by an influx of people coming to lay claim to a piece of this once unspoiled earth that no longer can exist under the current circumstances.

Four hours east and much like Yosemite National Park an endless stream of automobiles crawl bumper to bumper into a preciously small overcrowded valley. The once vast and open American West has been corralled and branded. There are still empty places, still small wineries just not here. Here is not small. Here is not quiet. Here is a place in flux.

Makes for one hell of a story so long as you have the stomach for oak trees being cut down, groundwater being pumped dry, every agricultural chemical known to winegrowing being sprayed from north to south, east to west over every acre of arable land.

There are just too many of us and too few acres for them. That pretty much sums the plot up. Never intended to do a full double-twisting somersaulting tower dive into the realm of the American environmental literary greats. I didn’t mean to go all freaking Thoreau on you. No matter how much I never shave my chance of looking like John Muir is slim to nil to none.

So, here I am. I imagined at the beginning perhaps a quaint quasi-romantic Nancy Meyers bit of romantic fluff emerging  from the laboratory of my writing desk. No, not this time. Here we go up against the fat-cats and bulldozers, the multinationals and the overzealous entrepreneurial pterodactyls. I have set down in long fiction form a story about a pregnant woman with her whole life in front of her fighting to save what remains of a place she has come to love.

Next time a comedy….